Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Gon’ eat these li’l fools like ciabatta bread

April 7, 2009

Ciabatta bread

Just when I was wondering how I was going to transition from something nicely spring-y like veggie burgers into a reason to make posts from my photos leftover from the winter, a storm comes along and dumps 3 inches of snow on us in April.  I guess I should be used to this kind of thing and even thankful for it making this and my next post relevant, still, I hate the goddamn snow.  Fuck it.

Anyway, I made this ciabatta bread way back at the beginning of February from the recipe for “rustic ciabatta bread” in Cook’s Illustrated no. 97.  If you get this magazine, go back to that issue and look at the pictures of this.  It looked so damn good that I could not resist making it.  I love ciabatta bread, it’s so chewy and crusty and slightly sour, and it’s got so many great applications from sandwiches to panzanella to just dipping it in some olive oil or marinara sauce, the bread is great and it entirely deserves it’s own theme song.

Unfortunately, mine didn’t come out so wonderfully.  While ciabatta is supposed to be kind of flat and rectangular/ovoid, mine didn’t achieve quite the rise that I wanted.  If I remember correctly, I wasn’t paying very close attention to this bread as I was making it, especially during the rise times, so that may have contributed to the lackluster results.  It was pretty dense and just kind of meh all around; in other words: destined to become breadcrumbs.  One great result of all the recent baking is that huge stockpile of homemade breadcrumbs I’ve got building up in the freezer.  The veggie burgers from Sunday were made from these bread crumbs and those from the leftover challah.  Also, this ciabatta served well in the French onion soup I made just a couple days later and that I will post up either tomorrow or Thursday.

Lackluster loaves

Ciabatta Bread

From Cook’s Illustrated no. 97, March & April 2009



1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast

1/2 cup water, room temperature


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water, room temperature

1/3 cup milk, room temperature


Combine all the biga ingredients in a bowl and stir them until they just make a shaggy ball.  The biga is your starter, or your mother sponge, or whatever the French call it.  You want to just let this thing sit in the bowl overnight, at least 8 hours anyway, and ferment and get big and sour.

Biga up yourself

Next, put the biga and the rest of your dough ingredents into your mixer bowl (you’re using a mixer, right?) and mix it on the lowest speed with the white paddle thing for about a minute, scaping down the sides as needed, until it’s roughly combined.  Then crank it up to medium-low and mix it until it sticks to the paddle and is pulling off of the bowl and generally slapping all around.  Then switch the paddle out for your dough hook and mix it on medium for about 10 minutes until the dough isn’t shaggy any more and instead is smooth and kind of shiny and super sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until it doubles.


Spray a rubber spatula and fold the dough over itself “by gently lifting and folding [the] edge of [the] dough toward [the] middle” (Cook’s Illustrated hates using articles).  Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold the dough again.  Turn the bowl and fold the dough six more times for a total of eight turns, then re-cover it and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

Repeat that last turning and folding step and let it rise again until it doubles (Cook’s Illustrated says about 30 more minutes).  In the meantime, put your oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 450 with a pizza stone in there so it gets good and hot too.

Pull off two 12″x6″ pieces of parchment paper and dust them with flour, then dump your dough out onto the counter or your slab of marble or whatever you want to work with dough on.

Flour the dough liberally and cut it in half.  Then take each piece and press it into a rough 12″x6″ shape and then kind of fold the pieces like you would a letter that you’re going to stuff into an envelope.  The magazine says your loaves should be 7″x4″, so kind of imagine them that size.  Put them seam-side down on the parchment paper sheets and let them rise another half hour.

Last rise

Slide the parchment with the bread onto your pizza peel or whatever you’re using to get the bread onto the baking stone.  Press the dough out into 10″x6″ rectangles/ovals (ciabatta is Italian for slipper I hear, so you know make it look like a slipper whydoncha?) and spritz them with water.  Slide the parchment and everything onto your hot baking stone and bake the bread, re-spritzing twice more during the first 5 minutes.  They’ll be done after about 22 – 27 minutes total.  Pull them out and put them on a wire rack to cool to room temperature (about an hour) before slicing and serving.  Makes 2 loaves.

One of two loaves that this recipe produces

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Baguette? Oh, ho, ho, baguette!

January 23, 2009


Guess who has two thumbs, speaks limited French, and only cried once today?  This moi!  In the past 2 days both my oven and my coffee maker have stopped working, a terrible combination when right now the main part of my mind is occupied with baking and with finishing my personal statement for law school applications.  Thankfully my grandma lives just around the corner and I was able to bake these baguette-oids at in her oven.  From what I’ve read online, baguettes are supposed to be a real challenge for novice bakers such as this myself, but since I love that crunchy, chewy, Gauloise-smoking stuff, I decided to give it a whirl.  I got the recipe from the King Arthur company because their picture of it just looked exactly how I wanted mine to come out.  They didn’t.  Not exactly, anyway.  Still, it was a fun experience; I love the idea of baking bread from starters, and though a little gluteny, my baguettes actually tasted pretty damn good.  They formed a nice crust too, though I didn’t “spritz” them with water because I don’t have a little bottle of the stuff like in Austin Powers 2, I just put a pan of water in the oven on the rack below the baguettes when I was baking them.  I heard that was supposed to work.





1/2 cup water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast


All of the starter

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Mix the starter ingredients together until you have a smooth mini-ball of dough.  Let it sit covered for 14 hours.

Dissolve the yeast in the cup of water with a pinch of sugar and let it bloom for 10 minutes, then combine with the rest of the dough ingredients and knead it together by hand or with a dough hook until you have a soft, cohesive dough, with a little roughness still to the surface.  You might need to add a little bit more water.  Let this rise covered with lightly greased plastic wrap for three hours, punching it down every hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it.  Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form them into “rough, slightly flattened oval[s].”  Let these rest another 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

Fold each piece of dough in half and seal the edge.  Fold it in half again, and then carefully shape into a log about 15″ long.  If you want to make a couche out of a floured dish towel, now is the time.  I just put them straight onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Anyhow, cover those bad boys up again and let them proof for another 60 – 90 minutes.

Baguettes after proofing

Preheat your oven to 450 and move the baguettes to a parchment-lined baking sheet or baguette pan or peel if you’re baking them on a stone. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in each loaf at about 45 degrees.  Spritz them down with water or else do what I did and bake them with a pan of water below them in the oven.  Pop the baking sheet into the oven or transfer them to the stone and bake for 25 minutes.  Pull them out and cool them on a rack, or King Arthur suggests turning the oven off, cracking the door and letting them cool in there.


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Challelujah Challahback

December 19, 2008


I picked Challah for my first entry because this is what I’m planning on giving as Christmas presents this year, so I wanted to try it out.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by a nice eggy, crusty loaf that was entirely worth the 4+ hours it took to prep, rise, bake.  Baking your own bread is retardedly easy and remarkably satisfying – I recommend it to everyone that has access to flour, yeast, water, and a stove.  There is nothing like whipping up a batch of dough and throwing it around for a while, not to mention the smells baking bread fills your house with and the awesome final product.  An added bonus is that no matter how easy a bread recipe is, a homemade loaf never ceases to impress friends and family alike.  Thanks to Cooking Books for the recipe!



Dry Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt


1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

pinch suger

Wet Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons water


2 egg whites

black and white sesame seeds

Get the yeast going in a bowl with the warm water and a good pinch of sugar and let it multiply and eat for about ten minutes.   Stir the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Once the yeast is good and frothy, add it to the wet ingredients, then add all of that to the dry ingredients.

Mix on low with the white paddle thing until it’s all incorporated and basically looks like dough.

Scrape your dough out onto a floured work surface and start to knead it.  Keep the bag of flour nearby and if the dough is too sticky (you’ll know if it’s too sticky) work some in a pinch or so at a time.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and springy and then form it into a ball by turning it inside out and then pinch the bottom closed.

Wipe some oil around the inside of a big mixing bowl and drop the dough ball inside, then cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour.

Punch the dough down and knead it for 2 minutes, make another ball, and let it rise again, this time uncovered, until it is one and a half times its size now.  For me, this took about an hour and a half because it’s cold in Buffalo in December.

Cut the ball into 3 equal pieces and cover them with a towel and let them sit for another 10 minutes (I know).

Roll the pieces into three ropes and braid them like a Challah is braided (in case you don’t know how to do this, you sort of take the left rope and cross it over to the right so it is now in the middle.  Then take the right rope and cross it over to the left so it is now the middle.   Repeat with the left and then keep doing this until it is done).  Brush the loaf with the egg whites (you SAVED the egg whites, RIGHT?) and then cover it for another hour.


Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush with the egg wash again and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Bake it for 30 minutes, rotate the bread 180 degrees, and bake it for another 20 minutes.  I put on some more egg white in the middle where it wasn’t as brown when I rotated that, but really it’s on you.  Take it out, and put it on a rack to cool.

Makes a loaf of bread like this one:


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